Head of Group
Microbial Metabolism Research Group, Max Planck Institute for Marine Biology, Bremen, Germany
Some microbes, called methanogens, have the ability to produce methane, a greenhouse gas as well as a potent biofuel. Methanogens do not breathe oxygen. Instead, they derive all their energy from methane production through a process called methanogenesis, which provides 60 times less chemical energy (ATP) than oxygen respiration. Since methanogenesis is completely deactivated in presence of oxygen, these microorganisms are constrained to live in anaerobic environment with an extreme restriction of chemical energy.
However, methanogenesis is an extremely efficient process and the different chemical reactions involved in methane generation have been optimized during billions of years of evolution. More interestingly, some of the methanogens are complete chemoautotrophs: they have to build all their elementary bricks (DNA, RNA, protein, lipids, vitamins…) only from minerals and gases.